Not Queer, Just Gay. No, Thanks.

I'm here, I'm not queer, get used to it. Actually, the "I'm here" part is what I'm left reconsidering.
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Woman giving thumbs down hand gesture, black and white image
Woman giving thumbs down hand gesture, black and white image

This may be my last contribution to what I will always call "Gay Voices." I am no fan of the decision by office staff to label us all "Queer" in the name of inclusion.

I'm in favor of a more inclusionary name. Using a term many of us find insulting and painful, however, is not inclusion -- it's exclusion and rather inconsiderate. It accomplishes the opposite of inclusion. I'd be quite happy with Rainbow Voices. I doubt many of us had traumatic experiences with rainbows.

But, many people, myself included, had very painful experiences with being labeled "queer." I find the term as insulting as "nigger," or "kike." I don't even like using those words to express why I hate being labeled queer -- regardless of who does it.

Yes, the word is painful. It was a point driven home to me with fists and kicks. It was the word vomited at me by bullies at school. It was one of the words, along with "faggot" and "sissy" that the gym coaches threw at us. If you didn't want to put on boxing gloves and hit another kid in the face you were a fag. You were queer. If someone was queer it was okay to inflict pain and suffering on them because of it. That message came from staff at school, from coaches, house parents, and the older boys. It was pervasive and universal. Let's all play smear the queer.

Once you were queer you had no right to live, no right to happiness, and were fair target for anyone needing to boost their own fragile masculinity.

I don't find the use of the term liberating. I find it traumatic. Maybe if my life experiences were those of the younger team members who run this page, I'd get some cheap thrill out of using the term. I don't. I just relive a lot of suffering because of it. It is part of who I am; I can't change what I experienced.

In the surprise announcement Noah Michelson makes it clear his experience with the word wasn't traumatic. He says, the page needs to be more inclusionary and "queer" is more inclusionary.

As to why they didn't call it "Queer Voices" from the start he writes, "some people felt that the term was too controversial, too divisive and, because of its history as a slur, perhaps just too painful to use."

Well, it is controversial; the almost universally negative comments I saw following his surprise announcement proves that. It is divisive and it is painful. Inclusionary only includes people without those painful experiences. You can't be inclusionary and divisive at the same time.

What I think, or what other writers or readers think, is pretty much irrelevant. The change is presented as a fait accompli. Inclusion doesn't include very many people.

I didn't live Mr. Michelson's life. He sure didn't live mine. He thinks, "Queer" functions as an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of "LGBT," but also those whose identities fall in between, outside of or stretch beyond those categories, including genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender, to name just a few."

Fair enough, but it also excludes all the asexual, polyamorous, pansexuals, gays, bisexual, lesbians and transgender individuals who find "queer" insulting, degrading and painful. It excludes huge segments of the community, who didn't have Mr. Michelson's life.

I'm glad he didn't have my life. From the moment I came out on radio in 1977 to oppose the Anita Bryant campaign, I've been fighting so that no one has to have the life I had. I don't want kids today to know the pain of being called "queer," pain that was often as physical as it was emotional.

"Queer" is a traumatic, painful word for many of us. To have it inflicted us by our allies is no less traumatic and painful. If anything, it is worse. I don't expect human decency or understanding from the bigots. But, here I feel as if I'm again being told I'm not welcome, I'm an outsider. I'm not one of the "in-kids" that everyone had to make happy. My pain, my experience--they don't matter. Once again, thanks to the "queer" term, I'm being locked out and excluded.

I've never denied another person the right to embrace whatever term they want. But, I'm not embracing "queer," it is being imposed on me, just like it was when I was growing up. Now, if I choose to continue contributing to this page, the word "Queer" will be emblazoned across the top of the page. It will be attached to my columns, regardless of my wishes.

I know had this page been originally called Queer Voices, I wouldn't have bothered contributing to it, or reading it for that matter. I'm just one writer in the community of mostly unpaid contributors. But, I don't feel like the community is mine anymore. I've been kicked out.

I'm here, I'm not queer, get used to it. Actually, the "I'm here" part is what I'm left reconsidering.

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